Eggimann's Feed & Seed razed

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

In 1938, the first owner was a man named O.E. Eggimann, who came to be known as "Eggimann the Egg Man" when his picture appeared in newspapers across the country in the old "Ripley's Believe it or Not" column.

His partner in those early days was A.C. "Doc" Brase, whose name now graces the multipurpose building at Arena Park. Decades later, patrons came to know "Snuggies," the Texas heeler dog, who on warm days could be found resting on bales of hay along the storefront.

10 years after closing

During the 55 years Eggimann Feed & Seed operated at 514 Independence St. in Cape Girardeau, thousands of customers strolled under the store's high ceilings along slightly creaking floors.

But last week, 10 years after the business closed, that piece of local history was razed and replaced with an empty lot.

"It was getting up there in age," said the building's most recent owner, Cape Girardeau businessman Vince Kelley. "The city had some things they wanted to do with it, and we decided it would be more cost-effective to tear it down."

Kelley said there were some structural problems that needed to be addressed and portions -- if not all -- of the roof probably needed replaced.

Kelley said the lot will sit empty until the new federal building under construction just across the street is finished. He said he plans to put a new building there and lease it as a restaurant, a coffee shop or office space.

Robb McClary, the city's inspections services director, said the last general property maintenance inspection was done two to three weeks ago and that the building failed in several categories. The building, he said, was not condemned, however.

"The building hadn't been maintained, and with some windows out it was open to the elements," McClary said. "There were several substantial deficiencies."

McClary said there was some structural damage and that the roof was caving in.

The date the building was actually built is unclear. But Eggimann Feed & Seed was open for 67 years, 55 of them at the same location. The feed store was originally established on South Frederick Street in 1926 by O.E. Eggimann and moved to the Independence Street site in 1938. The building originally housed Pollack Hide and Fur.

Dave Rutherford, chairman of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, said he doesn't know if the building was ever discussed as a potentially historically significant site. He said the commission usually doesn't deal with commercial buildings unless the owner is interesting in preserving it.

He used the Marquette Hotel as an example, saying there was interest in saving the hotel for something useful.

"If someone's solidly interested in it, that's a powerful incentive to save it," he said.

There was nothing outside of regional history that's significant about the old Eggimann building, he said.

"It was an interesting old building, but there's nothing unique about the architecture or anything," he said.

'A shame it's gone'

But Rutherford is sorry the building doesn't exist anymore.

"It's a shame it's gone," he said.

He countered that it's never more cost-effective to tear down an existing building and build a new one.

"It's always cheaper to remodel," he said. "It just takes more time. If somebody's looking for a reason to tear down a building, they can find one."

Any time you tear down a building, Rutherford said, it changes the complexion of a neighborhood.

"They might put an attractive building there, and it will be useful and meaningful," he said. "But the neighborhood loses some of its original charm."

335-6611, extension 137

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